Paulsen blasts govt over latest book bans

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PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has denounced the home ministry’s move to continue banning books even after a United Nations representative has spoken against it.

Speaking to FMT, LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said such an attitude was inconsistent with Malaysia’s effort to get re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Surely if Malaysia would like to be in the the council, the government must have basic respect for human rights and the views of UN experts,” he added.

The UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, recently conducted a study in Malaysia and expressed concerns over censorship and the banning of books. She mentioned Faisal Tehrani, who has had six of his books banned.

However, the home ministry yesterday announced that it had banned another book by Faisal as well as two books published by Malaysian think tank Islamic Renaissance France and two books written by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol.

The ministry said the publications were likely to be prejudicial to public order and alarm public opinion. The gazette, dated Sept 28, was signed by Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Paulsen said members of the public should not accept being told what books they should and should not read.

“Why restrict knowledge?” he said. “Why allow the government to decide what can or cannot be read, and what is the right or wrong interpretation of a particular issue, no matter how sensitive?

“Surely they would not support other governments banning books on issues that they might support. What if Israel were to ban books on the Palestinian struggle on the account of sensitivity?”